Port Royal challenge for Sidmouth residents

CASH-strapped re-generation chiefs have challenged Sidmouth s businessmen and experts to take the reins of a stuttering bid to re-develop Port Royal.

CASH-strapped re-generation chiefs have challenged Sidmouth's businessmen and experts to take the reins of a stuttering bid to re-develop Port Royal.

Ray Franklin, East Devon District Council's (EDDC) portfolio holder for strategic planning and regeneration, told Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce members on Wednesday that the authority is powerless to progress the project, but the town has the talent to take it forward.

He said: "The resources just aren't available for us (EDDC) to do it. The expertise is within Sidmouth, there are many professional people who could be part of a working party to look at a development brief. Sidmouth wants to do something to help itself, unlike some places."

Mr Franklin offered to sit on the working party if invited.

EDDC chairman Graham Liverton said the council wasn't the only authority unable to offer funding. He said "Devon County Council also does not have the funds. They seem to think that Sidmouth is better off than other areas. We need to get across that Sidmouth needs investing in. Everyone thinks that Sidmouth has everything but we have slipped behind badly. We will be just like Exmouth was. We need to show that we mean business. A working party could go to the executive with a proposal and say 'we are not going to go away'"

Last week the Herald revealed a mystery company has bid to re-develop Port Royal. EDDC executive board members deferred talks over the project until next month in light of the approach, also agreeing to look into harnessing local expertise.

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At that meeting, Chairman of Sidmouth's Chamber of Commerce Richard Eeley described Port Royal's current condition as "depressing" and its' Drill Hall as an "eyesore."

He said a failure to buy the "prime asset" Drill Hall was "the monopoly equivalent of declining to buy Park Lane when you already own Mayfair."

He urged the executive board to take advantage of "a rung of very well qualified people" in Sidmouth to develop a locally produced development brief for the project.

Mr Eley said on Tuesday: "We are hoping to get a working party set up. The whole area needs to evolve."

Chairman of the Vision Group for Sidmouth, Robert Crick, has also championed a "bottom up" structure for the bid.

He said local government, residents, business and community representatives need to work in partnership with private investors to determine "what is needed for the life of the town."

"We need a development vehicle that can bring together all the people involved and thrash this out." He added.